Getting the most out of every scootering penny
This section of
JustGottaScoot.com was requested by several regular visitors. We get a
lot of emails asking about impossibly inexpensive new scooters from people who
simply want to, or need to, get by with the least possible amount of money
invested. As we've mentioned many, many times before, DON'T fall for the
too-good-to-be-true new scooters, usually from mainland China. In many cases,
these machines are being sold at fairs, swap meets, low end used car lots, auto
parts stores, mobile phone stores and so on. To quote well-known scooter dealer
Bob Hedstrom, "If there really was a good quality new scooter I could sell
for $700, don't you think I'd have dozens of them on my showfloor"? Buy a
name brand scooter from a reputable dealer and you'll be much better off. We're
going to look at four different types of scootering: Moped/Scooters that often
have easier licensing requirements and can take advantage of discounted/free
parking. Small displacement scooters that have the performance to be utilized on
most any surface street. Highway capable scooters and scooters for touring.
Used or New
There are some new scooters that one can get at cheapskate prices. Sometimes
there are "birthday bikes" or scooters that have been in a dealers inventory for
a year or more. Still new, with warranty, just lower in price. Every once in a
while, manufacturers discontinue models. This is almost always because a model
didn't sell as well as the manufacturer expected. It can also be because of
sometimes boneheaded changes in management. Kymco USA, for example, has
discontinued some VERY nice machines like the People 50, People 150 and Yager
200. Parts availability shouldn't be an issue for many years, and the savings
can be significant. Most of the time, a cheapskate scooter will be a used
What to Look
For (and Look Out For) When Buying a Used Scooter
Buying a previously owned scooter involves some risk. You can mitigate this risk
by purchasing from a reputable dealer who stands behind the vehicles they sell.
I recommend that you invest some time in checking out any scooter you are
seriously considering. Start with a general overview - does the appearance match
the mileage? Are there any records of prior service work? Any signs of an
accident? Clean title? In the majority of cases, a "salvage" title means you
should walk away from this one. Check the function of every single component,
try every switch, check lights, turn indicators, horn, and so forth. Check the
tires closely, look at the underside of the scooter for damage, and leaks. Look
at the back and bottom of the exhaust system as rust can hide in these spots.
Check the fluids. Ideally, have a trusted technician go over the scooter if at
all possible. Super low miles may not be a good thing. A seven year old scooter
with 50 miles means it was virtually unused and may very well have been poorly
stored. It could need a complete fuel system flush and cleaning, a carburetor
overhaul and new tires (if the sidewalls are cracked) among other work.
Remember, you're getting a used machine and you are taking the risk of future
repairs and possibly neglected maintenance. Be sure and include the cost of any
needed repairs in your total acquisition price. That $1,000 scooter that needs
tires, brakes, carburetor work, headlight repair and a new seat can take $2,000
out of your pocket before you know it. Stick with name brand used scooters. That
in itself doesn't guarantee a quality machine, but a crappy scooter when new DID
NOT get any better as it aged.
It doesn't matter if you're getting a 50cc city scooter or a 700cc interstate
touring machine, there are a few basics you will need. Number one -
get a helmet. I've heard every excuse you
can imagine and NOBODY has been able to convince me that there is any excuse to
ride without head protection. To the people who think that they don't need one
because they are on a moped/scooter, hop on your pedal bike, run it up to 30MPH,
and jump off onto the pavement and THEN tell me how you don't need a helmet
because of how slow you are going. (If you thought I seriously wanted you to
do that, stop reading right now and go out and get a large order of common sense)
While damn near any helmet is better than no helmet, I'd stay away from the
shorty versions and go with a 3/4 at the minimum and full face preferred. Make
sure the helmet is DOT approved AND THAT IT FITS YOU. This is NOT something to
buy online. Go to your local shop and try on helmets. Different brands have
different shapes, but you should be able to find a 3/4 in the $85 - $150 range
or a full face in the $100 - $200 range that will be a good value. Do NOT skimp
here. Take care of your helmet. Don't discard the cloth bag that likely came
with the helmet. A lot of scratches and other damage happen to helmets when they
are on a garage shelf or stored under the seat. That bag will protect your
helmet and extend its lifespan.
Other minimum riding gear can likely be culled from things you already own or
can acquire on the cheap. You need to cover all skin. This means good
over-the-ankle shoes/boots, long pants, jacket and gloves, especially gloves.
Road rash hurts. A lot. Landing on pavement, even in a low speed fall, will
grind up your epidermis and leave you with a painful, slow healing set of
injuries. There are a lot of riding-specific choices in this type of gear that
offer wonderful protection along with enhanced riding comfort. They can,
however, add up to a big chunk of change pretty quickly. My Nolan helmet, Firstgear jacket, Speed & Strength jeans, Alpinestar boots and Tourmaster gloves
cost over $1,000 in total. Again, spend on the helmet, but that leather or denim
jacket, Wrangler jeans, Redwing boots and leather gardening gloves set THAT YOU
ALREADY OWN will keep you MUCH better protected than riding in a t-shirt, shorts
You'll also need to plan for insurance. Generally, scooter insurance is
relatively inexpensive. Coverages include liability, medical, comprehensive and
collision. There is likely a minimum base insurance requirement for your state
with comprehensive and collision insurance being optional. Consider this area of
cheapskate scootering carefully. The minimum insurance with the cheapest premium
may well be sadly inadequate and leave you with huge bills in the event
something happens. Get enough liability coverage and medical coverage to
actually pay for property damage and injuries. I also suggest getting
comprehensive coverage and an un-insured option that provides some protection if
the person who hits you doesn't have insurance. Collision coverage tends
to be pricey and I question its value on a cheap scooter. One case when scooter
insurance can be pricey is if the scooter is your only insured vehicle. Most
people have a car they insure and the scooter is a "second" vehicle. If it's
ONLY the scooter for you, your base liability coverage may be pricier. Talk to a
good agent and get prices on a range of options. The basic coverage might be
$200 per year and for an additional $50 you may be able to get much more
complete coverage. It's good to be frugal here, but don't be penny-smart and
Your cheapskate scooter budget
needs an allowance for maintenance and repairs. This will vary WILDLY depending
on your riding needs, the condition of your scooter, and situations beyond your
control. I plan for a set of tires every 7,500 miles or so, brakes about the
same, a yearly tune up and valve adjustment, and two oil changes per year. This
is, more or less, a three-year plan for me with a total of about $300, or $100
per year with most of the labor provided by yours truly. If you are paying shop
rates for these tasks your budget should be at least double that. Replacing
mirrors, brake levers and body panels when some jerk in the parking lot at work
knocks over your scooter with his SUV and leaves is one of those situations you
HOPE won't pop up, but sometimes does.
Depending on where you live, you may have a class of scooter that is licensed as
a moped. The rules will vary by state, but generally this is a less than 50cc
scooter that is restricted to 2 horsepower or less and a top speed on level
ground of 30 MPH. Here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area of Minnesota,
this is the type of scooter most commonly seen on campus and in the downtown
areas. In Minnesota, they do not require a motorcycle endorsement on ones
license and they can legally park in many bike racks. This is also the most
common type of rental scooter. This is also the only class of modern scooters
commonly powered by 2-stroke engines.
The moped/scooter is probably
the most dangerous class so far as too-good-to-be-true new scooter "deals" are
concerned. A lot of people considering this type of scooter are students with
very limited funds. Wow, what a super deal, a brand new scooter for only $595
right here at the mobile phone store..... just walk away. The least expensive
decent new moped/scooter I can think of is probably the Lance PCH. With taxes,
freight, fees, etc., you're looking at about $1,700 out the door (that's in
Minnesota according to Marty at GoMoto - one of the
real good guy dealers). While I consider $1,700 a good price for reliable
new transportation, it's not CHEAPSKATE pricing, so we'll be considering used
First, make SURE
the used scooter you are considering is moped legal. Three a lot of very good
quality 50cc scooters that are not moped legal. Here in Minnesota, the Yamaha
Zuma is a "motorcycle" and not a "moped" which eliminates the parking advantage
that is the driving force behind a lot of moped/scooter cheapskate purchases. I
have a friend who works in downtown Minneapolis and his parking spot costs $280
per month. During the non-winter months here in the great white north, he rides
a moped/scooter to work and parks for free. If you want/need the moped
classification, be certain that the scooter you are considering meets the
The list of used scooters to
look for is similar to the list of good news ones - just a few years older. In
some cases, scooters that are not moped legal NOW, used to be and you may find a
good used one with a "moped" license plate on it. The aforementioned Zuma falls
into this class - can't get a new one as a moped, but you might
find a used one.
Genuine Buddy 50cc - A wonderful machine with great parts and accessory
availability. I recently saw one that sold on Craig's List for $500 that needed
tires and brakes. The young lady who purchased it ended up with $800 invested in
total and had a very nice scooter.
Genuine RoughHouse - Sportier, looks a bit like a Zuma, excellent
ergonomics for taller/bigger riders.
SYM Mio - Might be the best 4-stroke moped/scooter out there.
Kymco People 50cc - Very likely the best all around moped/scooter ever
made. No longer available in the USA new, but good used ones are out there. Big
wheels and excellent reliability.
Yamaha Zuma, Vino & C3 - Again, look for a used one that has a "moped"
license plate, otherwise these are considered motorcycles in states like
Minnesota. If your state licenses these machines as mopeds, they are all
Honda Metropolitain and Ruckus - Same as the Yamahas above, look
for a used moped.
- 100cc to 200cc
The scooters in this class are treated as motorcycles in Minnesota - a driver's
license endorsement is required. I like to call these "city" scooters because
while they tend to be capable of speeds in the 55 MPH range, they aren't
designed or intended as regular highway scooters. Small wheels, short
wheelbases, light weight and minimal protection do NOT a touring scooter make.
Depending on your personal definition of "cheapskate" this class might include a
new scooter or two. According to a couple of my favorite local dealers, a Lance
PCH 150 can be had, out-the-door, for about $2,400 and a Kymco Agility 125 for
about $2,200. This category is also prime for "birthday bikes". Those new
scooters that are a year (or two) old, but still in the crate at dealers.
The very nice 2010 Honda Elite 110 was $2,999 in 2010. By 2012 some dealers were
still selling new 2010s for $2,400 out-the-door.
The City Scooter should be able
to handle cruising speeds of 45 MPH and short runs at 55 MPH. The idea is to be
able to keep up with the flow of traffic on pretty much any surface street and
make short highway runs. This is the most common type of scooter in a lot of
metro areas. It's another danger zone for crappy non-name scooters at impossibly
low prices. There is no such thing as a really good new 125cc scooter for $795,
despite what various websites promise. This is also a good category for the
cheapskate scooterist as used City Scooters tend to be in better condition than
used moped-legal scooters. If you are not looking for free parking via a "moped"
license plate, the City Scooter will likely be the most economical scooter to
operate. Comparing a 50cc 2-stroke and a 125cc 4-stroke scooter, the 125 will
probably get better gas mileage than the 50cc. Running around on my Genuine
Rattler 50, I got 70 - 75 MPG, while my wife's Genuine Buddy 125 got 90+ MPG on
the same rides.
Genuine Buddy 125cc - In
my opinion, the best 125cc scooter currently available IF IT FITS YOU. The Buddy
is not a big scooter, but it's ergonomics can suit a wide range of rider sizes,
especially for JUST a rider. An accessory solo seat makes the Buddy workable for
fairly tall people. The Buddy is quick, fast, handles well, is durable and TONS
of accessories are available. Genuine sold a lot of them, so good used ones are
out there. I personally know of a cheapskate who purchased a 2008 Buddy in 2012
and set it up to suit her commuting needs while only parting with $1,300.
Kymco People 150cc - No longer offered in the USA (that's a mistake on
Kymco's part) this big-wheeled wonder can handle just about any urban chore
you throw at it. It's not as quick or as nimble as the Buddy, but it is equally
robust and reliable. The bigger wheels give a smoother ride, especially at
higher speeds. I'd rather have a cosmetically rough used People 150 than any
shinny new mainland China scooter.
Honda Elite 110cc - You MIGHT still find a new-non-current one, but more
likely you will encounter a used one. It's fuel injected and it's a Honda. It
isn't the best looking, or fastest, or best handling (Elites tend to an
overly soft suspension), but it will be as reliable as death and taxes. A
top end of about 50+MPH will keep the Elite off the highway, but it's
reliability and cavernous under-seat storage will make up for that.
Yamaha Zuma 125cc - Like the Honda Elite, the Yamaha Zuma offers fuel
injection and a non-highway top speed (maybe 54 MPH on a good day) along
with excellent build quality and reliability. Nothing like as popular as the
Zuma 50, the 125 didn't sell in very big numbers so finding one may be a bit
challenging. The used ones I have seen have been priced well below their real
value making this a great cheapskate choice.
Urban Commuter/Do Everything
- 200cc - 300cc
Need a bit more speed and stability than a Buddy 125 can offer? Have a regular
highway run as part of your daily commute? Want ONE scooter for everything from
parkway cruising to light touring? Want to do it all on the cheap? This is
Nothing new comes under the
heading of cheapskate unless you miraculously stumble across a new-non-current
Kymco Yager 200. Do Everything scooters are capable of highway runs as well as
city street cruising. In my opinion, they offer the very best choice in personal
transit. Just you and some of your stuff getting around. Of course passenger
accommodations tend to be better in this category than in smaller scooters, but
we're looking for the cheapskate choice and that means the rear seat will likely
be utilized to haul groceries and other cargo as opposed to another person.
Those long-suffering of you who
have read a lot on this site are probably expecting me to name the Kymco People
250 as the "King" in this category and you're close - it's my second choice.
Kymco Yager 200 - When is comes to a cheapskate Do Everything machine,
the Yager has to take top honors. Fuel injected, liquid cooled, great under seat
storage, highway capable, rock solid reliability and not all that expensive even
when new. Kymco has demonstrated odd choices in naming and marketing their
products in North America and the Yager is a prime example of a
swing-and-a-miss. Yes, yes, I know the Yager is a bit "horse-faced" looking, but
it's a wonderfully practical machine that deserved better treatment in this
market and I believe the cheapskates will latch on to this scooter.
Kymco People 250 - Carbureted and liquid cooled. Big wheels. Good
ergonomics. As close to indestructible as one is likely to get with a scooter.
It sold well and is VERY reasonably priced in the used marketplace. This scooter
will do just about anything you ask of it.
Kymco People 'S' 250 - The updated version of the plain People 250. As
angular as the predecessor was curvy, the 'S' People is another great machine,
just slightly more expensive than the plain 250.
SYM HD200 - Another great scooter that suffered from questionable
marketing and catastrophic North American distribution. They seem to have their
USA supply lines worked out and the SYM HD200 is a very fine scooter. If I were
getting one, I'd buy a couple of CVT belts, some brake levers and maybe a few
other proprietary parts and hang on to them... just in case.
Honda Helix - The original barcalounger on wheels. You either "get it" or
you don't when it comes to the Helix. For people unfamiliar with Kymco,
this is the King of the ugly cheapskate do-it-all scooters.
- 250cc -
Seems a bit contradictory, doesn't it - "maxi" and "scooter" together. As a
person who has been riding for something like 40 years now (I'm not going to
tell you if it's more or less than 40 years) and has been on just about
every kind of motorcycle and scooter, a good maxiscooter is an excellent touring
choice. These are the longer-wheelbase, fuller coverage bodied, faster scooters
that are designed and built to gobble up miles. A lot of these scooters were
PRICEY when new, so the best cheapskate choices are going to involve some kind
of compromise. If you're planning to be a solo rider, you can probably get by
with one of the 250cc models recommended, just don't expect triple digit top
speeds or push-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration.
When it comes to cheapskate
maxiscooters, you are going to do better if you can perform some or all of your
own mechanical work. It's not that the models suggested need a lot of work, it's
just that they often involve a LOT of wrench turning for simple maintenance
tasks. It's not unusual to need more time to GET TO a component than is needed
to service said component. There can be a lot of Tupperware (aka body panels)
to remove before accessing the guts of the machine.
Suzuki Burgman 650 - The original and still King of this category,
cheapskate or not. The reason I've put the Burgman at number one is because it's
been around for a long time and good condition used ones can be found at very
reasonable prices with many, many miles of great service left in them. I've
logged a fair number of highway miles on Burgmans and am always impressed by
their comfort, performance and reliability. BMW and Kymco are both chasing the
Burgman with new maxiscooter models, but at prices in the $10,000 range these
new scooters DO NOT meet our cheapskate criteria.
Yamaha Majesty 400 - Better looking than the Burgman or the Honda
SIlverwing, the Majesty is a good performer, comfortable and can often be a real
bargain. Maintenance is not easy and this is a prime example of being able to
save a lot of shop labor if you can do some work yourself.
Honda Reflex 250 - If you are of average to shorter height, the Reflex would be
a good choice. It's slightly cramped ergonomics and less-than-thrilling
performance, are made up for with Honda build quality and reliability.
Kymco Xciting 250 - A full-sized maxiscooter with a 250cc powerplant. The
Xciting 250 is adequate for a solo rider at freeway speeds and OK for 2-up
riding at a slower pace. Look for the "i" version which is fuel injected. I have
seen Xcitings in excellent condition going for bargain prices.
Kymco Xciting 500 - It's no Burgman, but like it's 250cc sibling, the
Xciting 500cc can also often be found at GREAT prices.
You've got your cheapskate
scooter, now what?
Time to accessorize. Proprietary items like scooter-model-specific luggage racks
don't have to be purchased from the OEM or even new. Scooter groups, clubs and
your local dealer can be great sources of information on cheap, but good,
accessories. Dealers will sometimes have "take-offs", accessories that came on a
trade-in scooter or even occasional new pieces that the purchaser of a scooter
doesn't want. A friend picked up a new Silverwing windshield from a dealer when
the buyer of a scooter had a taller windshield installed and didn't want the OEM
one. Scooter riders tend to upgrade their machines and sometimes will have
no-longer-needed parts. It often pays to ask around. Online sources like
Craigslist and eBay can work out sometimes as well.
When it comes to one of the
most common cheapskate additions, luggage, we can step away from the realm of
scooter completely. Isn't having a good way to haul stuff around a big part of
cheapskate scootering? Just doesn't seem.... right.... to get a cheapskate
scooter and then pony up for expensive goodies. My favorite touring accessory is
a square soft-sided "trunk" that I bungee to the passenger seat when I'm touring
solo. I found it on a close-out of.... Goldwing accessories. $40 on the
clearance table at a Honda dealer.
There you have it. A few of my
ideas and suggestions for cheapskate scootering. I hope this serves as a
starting point to get you on the road and enjoying the world of scootering while
maintaining a tight grip on those purse strings.